It’s so easy to look around at all the other libraries doing sensory story times and think, so is that all there is to it? I’ll hop on the bandwagon and do a sensory storytime too. Ah, check! Requirement fulfilled, I can move on because now because I’m serving a unique population, so I don’t have to do anything else. Hey, not so fast buddy! You can do more. You should do more. You’re probably forgetting some underserved population that could be of benefit to your library programming talents. In fact, you’re probably missing some key demographic that’s right under your nose. The beauty of it is, you don’t necessarily have to design a unique program or service either. So look around, some groups are out there waiting for you to include them in your wonderful family storytime, library game night or summer reading/learning program. So, what is a special population anyway? A special population is one that is underserved by your library. Remember, we want all children and families to feel welcome and have access to all of the programs, services, and materials in our libraries.
Have you ever thought about making sure that you have resources for homeschoolers for instance? Or that you whip up a quick flyer inviting them to use your space during the day. How about making sure that parents with active children have a place to have a timeout or that there are active learning materials out of for those families with very young children who wouldn’t otherwise stay at the library because they feel like the library is a bastion of solitude. Many of our spaces are play-centric now, and families just need to be told, hey it’s okay to play and be a little noisy.
Maybe you develop a playgroup just for those families so that they can take advantage of their toddlers’ innate talent to dice it up a bit.
Perhaps you purchase books in Urdu to make available to a spike in an immigrant population in your area. Maybe you partner with an organization to come in and do a parent education workshop and a ‘Mommy and Me’ storytime for teen mothers. These are just a smattering of ideas that you could employ today to make your library relevant and hip to everyone. Refer to the ALSC Library Service to Special Population Children and their Caregivers: A Toolkit for Librarians and Library Workers as a resource and training tool for yourself and newly minted library personnel.
Always keep in mind that a little goes a long way towards making sure that all families feel welcome in your library because that’s the name of the game when we’re talking about special populations, a welcoming and tolerant atmosphere! There are countless ways to get involved in the inclusiveness arena. Inclusivity is not just about families with children on the spectrum. It’s about all of us! So remember always to be on the lookout for the little guy or gal or person because they’re everywhere!